Published on Thu, Sep 16, 2004
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Home Improvement

By Jack Kintner

“Put away the shoes and coats!” urged Pat Long when talking about entry ways, often a house’s most overlooked area. Long and her business partner Kristin Engerman run Blaine’s downtown design studio called interiorArts, and before moving north Long specialized in preparing houses for California’s competitive, high stakes real estate market, where the numbers can get big fast.

“Let’s say you spend $50,000 on carpeting, a roof, some other kinds of improvements designed to help your place sell. That sounds like a lot until you realize it may only be ten percent or less of the purchase price, and if your house just sits there without those improvements, then it’s worth it.” She knows the impact first impressions can have.
“Entries are the introduction to who you are. It’s your first chance to make guests feel comfortable,” Long said, “and one of the worst ways to not do that is to make them have to claw their way through a pile of shoes and a rack overloaded with coats.”

Long said she often advises people who do not have a closet off their entry to use an armoire as a free-standing closet to get the clutter out of the way. “A table with a lamp on it gives off a warm kind of light and is another way to make an entry inviting and relaxing.” She said.
Another principle for entries, especially in big houses, is to let people see something on a human scale before overwhelming them with a great room the size of Key Arena. “I like small entries that open up and draw you in rather than big ones that blow you away,” Long said.
To sell a house, Long often advised people to begin packing as soon as they knew they’d be leaving. “Houses that are full of stuff can be intimidating, and are hard for people to see as their own living space,” she said, “so we’d advise people to really clear out their places, and it always seemed to help.”

How that may translate into renovating an entryway is not an exact science, but it does suggest that lighter, simpler and cleaner is better than darker, more complex and dirtier. If it’s making a statement about you, then it should be clear even if it’s a little wacky, according to Dixie Mayo.

Transplanted Chicago natives, Mayo and her carpenter husband Jim moved their family from Cook County to the original Cook farm on Cook Road outside Sedro Woolley in 1965. They made up a small playhouse for their kids with some of the lumber from the old farm buildings that eventually grew into a fair imitation of an English country cottage that houses her retail antique and crafts store called “From the Hand and Heart of Dixie.”

That you’re going to find something a little different and people to go along with it is obvious from the way the small house looks. The strongest statement is made by the front door, where a sharply gabled porch roof supported by vertical stone walls made of Skagit River rock present a dark but intriguing entry. You definitely know you’re going into something.

“We wanted a thatch roof for the place, but it was way too expensive,” Jim Mayo said, “so I faked it using random width rafters of 2x4, 2x6 and 2x8 to give the roof that flowing look and then covered it with shingles I cut myself out of a roll and applied different ways, like one on two, two on one, one on one and so forth.” The neighbors call it the Hobbit House or the Hansel and Gretel house.

“This building is my rebellion against everything I had to do as a carpenter,” laughed Jim Mayo, “but it’s more homey this way.”
Somehow that all fits with what one is lead to expect at the front door. And there are no shoes or coats anywhere.